Terrelle Pryor considers himself a "humbled" quarterback these days, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, a more comfortable, mature presence than the "arrogant" (his word) blue-chip who's guided Ohio State the last two years. Oh, and just in case anyone was wondering, yes, he does plan to be back at OSU for his senior season in 2011:
Pryor also said he's interacting more with his teammates and with people he runs across in his life. He said he's sitting up straighter in meetings, paying more attention, answering questions that aren't even directed at him.
"My freshman and sophomore year I wasn't trying to get better every day," he said. "Now I push myself because I got so close with the senior guys now that I want to go out with a bang."
Pryor claimed Sunday he's not ready for it to end anytime soon. Unprompted, he said he'd return for his senior season, which might be a smart move according to some draft analysts.
... Pryor wasn't pressed on this. He was just looking into the future, just as he'd been looking at the past.
"I want to leave a legacy, that's my goal," Pryor said. "That's why I'll be here for four years. I can't wait. I'm so happy."
Hey man, that's awesome. But if reporters aren't wondering yet about Pryor's plans for the NFL, who is? Not draftniks, who never mention Pryor alongside other coveted underclassmen like Arkansas' Ryan Mallett or Stanford's Andrew Luck as certain first-rounders if they come out after this season. Not Big Ten opponents, last week voted Pryor as the conference's "most overrated" player in an informal player poll. Not even many Ohio State fans, who are presumably more interested at the moment in whether Pryor makes the crucial leap this year, his third as a full-time starter, that lifts the Buckeyes back to the national championship.
In fact, I'd bet the house that OSU would gladly trade Pryor's senior year if his early exit meant a championship-level breakthrough as a junior. If it's hard to imagine OSU running the table or otherwise landing in the BCS title game without that kind of effort from its star quarterback it's almost imagine the Pryor – given his pro-ready size, hype and physical potential in any system – deciding not to take advantage of the dream season within the Buckeyes' grasp to go out on top.
No doubt Pryor is going out of his way here to establish himself as a "leader" and a team player who says the right things, and whether or not he eventually does or doesn't go pro at all is beside the point; players renege on these kinds of pledges all the time, and nobody cares in the end because deserving prospects have earned their stripes and the free market and all that. But Pryor, through two uneven and occasionally uninspiring seasons, hasn't put enough skins on the wall yet to bring it up. The assumption that it's a relevant subject at al prior to the season is the opposite of "humbled," from a player who was thrust into the spotlight so early on as a supernova recruit and then as true freshman in 2008 that even he – like his critics – seems to be overlooking just how young he still is, and how much time he still has to advance on the curve before those kinds of decisions ever come into play.
In other words, there are more pressing matters at hand for Pryor and Ohio State than his career trajectory in six months or a year. When Tim Tebow announced his return to Florida for his senior season last year, he already had a Heisman and two BCS championship rings. Ditto Alabama's Mark Ingram, also just a junior this fall with two seasons of eligibility remaining, when he faced the first round of "the question" earlier this summer. If Pryor can bring that kind of hardware back to Columbus in January, Ohio Stadium will send him off on the spot with a jubilant ticker-tape parade. Until then, the horse has to come before the cart.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.